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DUBAI: They say it’s easier to see a Picasso up close in a museum than a Jean-Paul Gaultier dress.

The Great French Designer and his unique dresses are finally on display in the Middle East as part of the “Jean-Paul Gaultier, de A à Z” retrospective at the France Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

In total, some forty haute couture and ready-to-wear pieces represent nearly half a century of rebellion and explore Gaultier’s influences, obsessions and inspirations.

Herb Ritts, Jean Paul Gaultier, Tokyo, 1990 © Herb Ritts Foundation / Trunk Archives

It’s a real journey through which you can see and almost touch the outfits of stars such as Nicole Kidman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Marion Cotillard or Cate Blanchett. Also on display are the legendary corsets created for Madonna that she wore for her MDNA tour, and the beautiful butterfly corset worn by Dita von Teese.

“It’s my first time to Dubai and I’m delighted,” Gaultier told Arab News. “It’s a very inspiring and beautiful place. There’s a positive energy here, beautiful light, beautiful architecture. It’s the city of the future, I like it, it’s inspiring,” he said. he adds.

Gaultier, also nicknamed “The bad boy of fashion”, often dresses women in corsets. Although this accessory can be perceived as a symbol of suffering and submission to the standards of beauty established by men, the fashion designer has magnified in his creations an image of powerful and emancipated women.

Her inspiration was strong and independent women like Frida Kahlo. “I wanted to express my admiration for her,” explained the artist, showing the dress that bears the name of the Mexican painter, during the visit to the exhibition by Arab News.

Madonna was, without a shadow of a doubt, another strong inspiration. For her, Gaultier created the famous corset. He worked with the American star on several shows. “She’s a very strong woman. I admire her music and the provocation she represents. She’s passionate and that’s important for any creator,” he said.

Spring 1994 Ready-to-Wear Collection by Jean Paul Gaultier, Tattoos by Ellen Von
Unwerth, models Laetitia Casta, Vladimir McCary, Jenny Shimizu, 1994.

“I started my career in the 1970s. I worked for Cardin, Patou, very classic haute couture houses,” he says. However, for the artist who relaunched the marinière so that it became a trend and who dressed men in skirts, fashion must express “the evolution of society, its transformation.

“I wanted to show that women were strong and that men could be venal or fragile, sensual, ideas that were forbidden at the time. The archetypal man looked more like John Wayne! he said.

Inclusiveness fused with a social message

Produced under the authority of its curator, Thierry-Maxime Loriot, this seventeenth exhibition on Gaultier reflects, through his work, a singular aesthetic characterized by a profound humanism. The legendary blonde, with a contagious laugh, reinterpreted and broke the often rigid codes of haute couture and ready-to-wear, but also those of our society, in a funny and mischievous way.

Jean-Paul Gaultier, “The bad boy of fashion”, often dressed women in corsets.
The famous couturier has built his reputation on his avant-garde style which
breaks the laws of high fashion. Provided

He created “an inclusive mode with a social message”, according to Loriot. “I think it’s important to send a universal message about diversity and these different values. It’s something that exists less fashionable today, which is perhaps more contrived,” he told Arab News.

These values ​​which address the most pressing issues facing society have been consistently expressed by the fashion designer throughout his career.

He had humble beginnings. “When I started, I didn’t have any money. It’s a good start: it forces you to be creative,” Gaultier said. “I turned a plastic bag into a dress. fashion piece that way. He also enjoys “turning the old into something new”.

From a work of art to multiple beauties

Loriot said: “It was also necessary to pay homage to multiple beauties and different cultures – elements that Jean-Paul Gaultier mixes wonderfully.”

“Perhaps it’s because I am different myself that I am attracted to those who are different from others,” Gaultier said. “I really like chubby women, I’ve featured a lot of them,” he added. “When I started in 1976, I saw different beauties, whether in Morocco, India, Japan, Mongolia or Africa. I wanted to show this diversity. All this inspires me, like the different types of beauty of my models.

The famous couturier has built his reputation on his avant-garde style which
breaks the laws of high fashion. Provided

The street is the French designer’s main source of inspiration. It is a unique universe where interbreeding and multiculturalism, androgyny and metamorphoses, women of power and male objects intersect and meet the exceptional know-how of haute couture workshops.

“These are extremely fragile works,” said Benjamin, one of Gaultier’s longtime collaborators who had come to help set up the exhibit. Benjamin has worked for years in the haute couture workshop of “Monsieur”.

A standout example of one of Gaultier’s intricate designs is his leopard dress. Designed in collaboration with the Lesage house, which specializes in haute couture embroidery, it required 1,700 hours of work. To add the cheetah print, beads were sewn by hand for a year.

The beautiful butterfly corset worn by Dita von Teese is among the creations currently on display at the French pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Provided

The late Andy Warhol perhaps best sums up Gaultier’s designs as works of “art”.

Accompanied by his muses and models – Farida Khelfa, Nabilla Benattia and Miss France 2016 Iris Mittenaere – Gaultier, who retired in 2020, crossed paths with his dressing room in Dubai. His movement was perhaps similar to the way we go through his memories and look at his life’s work: With a certain amount of nostalgia, no doubt.

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